Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone could be preachy at times, but it often boasted some of the best writing on television. One particularly notable episode was titled The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street. It is presented for your consideration here:
If you haven’t seen the episode and you have a half hour available, I recommend you watch it, because I’m about to provide spoilers.
The episode was intended as a none-too-subtle metaphor in the cold war era. The warning is given to the viewers that the monsters are about to arrive, after a UFO is seen traveling overhead.
The power goes out for the neighborhood and simultaneously all communications are lost. No telephones or radios work. No vehicles move. As the citizens, all of whom know each other on an amiable first-name basis, discuss the reasons for it, suspicions grow. Then, by itself, one person’s car starts.
As power is returned selectively, those who have working devices are accused of being in cahoots with whatever beings are behind the initial failure. Protestations of innocence and counter-accusations fly, and over the course of a mere twenty minutes we watch a friendly neighborhood devolve into an angry mob intent on killing their lifelong friends. At the end, the camera shifts to show aliens… just two of them, who look exactly like normal humans… who have been manipulating the power from a distance. By subtle control of what the people see and playing to fears they have successfully destroyed a tight-knit community.
The episode was a warning. The Soviets don’t need to infiltrate us. They will tear us apart using our own prejudices and fears, if we let them.
The parallels to the propaganda operations run by operatives of the Russian government in elections throughout the world are readily apparent. I’m not of a mind to belabor them other than to say we were warned.
Rather, I’m mindful of another message in the episode.
None of the damage done in the neighborhood would have occurred had the people, already friendly, merely talked through their suspicions and given more weight to their experiences than to their fears.
Communities, together, can be strong.
TNB is intended to be a community. On the surface, it may seem to be an anti-Trump site. That is not the case. It was designed as a site which focuses primarily on politics, run by people who lean heavily toward Constitutional originalism, where civil political discussion of all stripes is encouraged. We intend to be here long after Trump is gone.
It is currently presenting primarily as an anti-Trump site because Trump is the President and is not particularly respectful of founding principles, and because many of the regular visitors here are political junkies and activists who watched their favorite haunts devolve into either reflexive nationalism or reflexive socialism.
As such, we run the risk of becoming an echo chamber. While we have lifelong Republican and lifelong Democrat activists alike who regularly post, the one consistent position is a distrust of President Trump.
This should not be. It’s difficult for the moderators to adequately provide examples, because there’s not a pro-Trump person among us, but the structure of the site is not anti-Trump. It’s not even to promote originalism (although that’s one of our goals.) It’s to promote civil discussion.
The moderators aren’t monolithic in our opinions. I don’t expect the commenters to be, either. Whether it’s about a Supreme Court Justice or a Senator, about a conflict between different groups at a public event, or simply being pro-Trump or pro-Ocasio-Cortez, the hope is that a variety of different opinions will be presented and discussed.
This is the hope because we are confident that the notions of individual freedom that guided the formation of this country are superior to the available alternatives. We believe that in a rational discussion, we possess better arguments which are rooted in reality. Most importantly, we desire the opportunity to change minds.
Minds are changed by presenting reasonable arguments, bolstered by easily-researched facts, to people who disagree. It happens when those people decide for themselves that they were not fully correct about something. It can only happen when people who hold different opinions are welcomed into a respectful – not deferential, but respectful – discussion.
The most dangerous enemy the aliens of “Monsters” could have faced would have been a truly unified community, curious for rational answers and accepting of differences among their neighbors.
I sincerely hope that TNB continues to grow as exactly that sort of community.